USM Pirate Radio Intros #1

Sunday, December 1, 2013

For those not in the know: Sometime back I started up and ran a pirate radio station. These are the station intros that ran every couple of songs. The idea was to make it seem like the dj was always there, never left, and the radio station was like this labor of love that was slowly killing him on the inside. 

We went with that concept in order to make ourselves different from all the other DJ's that you hear on the radio. The result seems a lot like a very public look at one mans fast decent into madness. We loved the results. Hope you do too, and enjoy this as a historical record of USM Pirate Radio.

Migel Medal Nomination

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A reader of this blog has submitted the nomination paperwork for the Bat Sleeve to the American Foundation of the Blind for the 2014 Migel Medal.

This medal is the highest honor in the world for advocacy for the blind. I do not think that I will win it, there are many people in the world who are far more deserving than myself, and typically it is given out after a lifetime of advocacy work. As such, I am nearly certain that I will not receive the medal.

That being said, it is a tremendous honor to me to have my name placed in a hat with other names who are far more worthy than mine.

Thank you all for your support on that project, and future projects yet to come.

E-cig Fluid

Friday, August 23, 2013

Now that you know how to make your own e-cig, it is time to teach you how to make the fluid.

NEWS FLASH - This is not chemistry. E-cig fluid is nothing more than a mixture of ingredients. So you will not need any complex chemistry gear to make it, and there is only one substance that can be considered dangerous. Here we go.

To make the fluid that you will be vaping, there are several ingredients. Here they are.

Nicotine Solution - Here, use this. It is diluted enough that it should be safe, but wear gloves when using it, and only use it in a ventilated environment anyway. Safety first.

Propylene Glycol (PG)- Use this. This will be one of your fillers and flavor carriers. This stuff is almost perfectly safe.

Vegetable Glycerin (VG)- Use this. This is your other filler. If you want huge clouds of vapor, this is what you want.

Flavors - I get my flavors from here. What you get depends entirely on your personal taste. One caveat though, make sure that the flavors your order are not 'oil based'. As long as you obey that one rule, you are good to go.

Now you just need some small measuring devices, and a container. I use small bottles for the container, and blunt tipped syringes for the measurements.

Here is how you proceed. Each time you do this, it will be different because of wanting different amounts of PG, VG, Nicotine, and flavoring. So for this example, I will assume you want the following set amounts.

Amount to make - 15ml
Nicotine level - 12mg
50% PG, 50% VG
20% flavor

What these mean... The amount is obvious. At the end, you want to be left with 15ml of solution. You want there to be 12mg of Nicotine per ml in the bottle. You want the final solution to be about 50% PG, and 50% VG. You want there to be 20% flavoring in the solution.

I find that these values work well for me. Adjust them to your taste.

Now go here and enter the values.

For Nicotine Base, enter 60.
For Target Nicotine Level, enter 12
For Amount to Create, enter 15
For Flavor Percent, enter 20

You should get something like this as a result:


ingredientml% of total
PG or VG with nicotine3.0 ml20.0%
PG or VG (no nicotine)9.0 ml60.0%
Water0.0 ml0.0%
Flavoring(s)3.0 ml20.0%

All you have to do now is to get your bottle, and using different syringes for each ingredient, extract the ingredients from their bottles, taking care to measure the amounts properly, and add them to your own bottle.

TIP: Add the nicotine LAST. The reason for this is that the nicotine is the most expensive ingredient. If you mess up somewhere, at least you are not out the big expense.

Now that everything is added to one bottle, cap it, shake it for a few minutes, and enjoy. Make sure to wash and rinse your equipment thoroughly. You are now making e-cig fluid the same way the big suppliers do!

Electronic Cigarettes

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I was a long term smoker. Over 10 years. I tried almost everything to quit, medications, cold turkey, patches, the list goes on and on. I was finally able to quit using electronic cigarettes. I can't make any claims about the effectiveness of e-cigs as smoking cessation devices, but I can say that they worked for me.

Here is how to make one.

510 sealed battery connector - They can be a pain to solder so Madvapes offers prewired ones for $2.99 that I recommend.

Horn Switch - $.89 they come in many colors and have been very sturdy for me with a nice clicky feel when pushed.

18350 Battery - $4.79 great battery, long lasting, fits into other vaping gear that you might have.

So pretty... So very pretty. 
Battery Spring Plates - $.99 does exactly as advertised. Holds battery firmly, allows current to flow.

You will also need some wire, solder iron and solder, a drill, and a box to put everything in. I used a box I made myself, but there is nothing stopping you from using something like a plastic project enclosure from Radio Shack. Here is a photo of the box I made.

Ok, here are the ultra simple directions.

1. Drill a hole in your box that fits the Horn Switch.

2. Drill a hole that fits your 510 Connector.

3. Seat both the Switch and the 510 Connector.

4. Connect one wire from the 510 Connector to the Positive Battery Plate. That is the one without the spring.

5. Connect the other wire from the 510 Connector to one of the leads on the Horn Switch.

6. Attach a wire to the one remaining lead on the Horn Switch.  Connect the other end of that wire to the Negative Battery Plate. That is the one with the spring.

7. Mount the battery plates in the box so they are stable.

8. Insert the 18350 Battery.

9. Close up the box.

10. Enjoy. Screw in your favorite clearomizer, or pick up some Blu Cig Refill Cartridges from your local convenience store. Push the horn switch to vape. When it stops producing vapor, you need to charge the battery.

And that is it. Believe it or not, an ecig is no more complex than a flashlight. Now get out there and get creative!

Pirate Radio Part 2: Aftermath

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Remember when I told you not to build a radio station without the proper licensing? Here is why....

The radio station was going along swimmingly, and with almost no work on my end. One day I get a knock on my door. I open it, and it is two men from the FCC and four(!) police officers there to shut me down.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain to you why you don't want to build one of these. Look past the legal issues for a moment. The electromagnetic spectrum is a finite resource. There are only so many spaces on the spectrum that radio signals can fit. Without regulation, there is anarchy on the spectrum, where only the people who can afford the most powerful of transmitters can use it. The FCC provides the needed regulation.

When I built my station, I did not fully understand these concepts. I thought of the FCC only as a body focused on censorship. I WAS WRONG. By not doing the proper research into these matters, even though I my intentions were good in creating the station, I was in a way encouraging the sort of anarchy on the electromagnetic spectrum that should never be encouraged.

At the end of the day I can say this, building this station was a dumb move on my part, not due to the legal reasons, but due to not taking the time to understand WHY these regulations exist. I can assure you, that will not happen again.

Time to get off my soapbox...

The guys from the FCC were actually very nice to me. They understood that I didn't do the research first, so they let me off easy. They confiscated all of my radio equipment, but did not levy any fines. I was facing a possible $10,000 fine, so I'm very happy with the result. As a bonus, I got to see the equipment they used to track me down, and they even told me to apply to the FCC after I graduated! Their logic went like this: I used to run a pirate radio station, I obviously know how they operate, so I'd be an ideal person to help find them. Works for me!

In the end though, I ended up with a great story to tell, and a much better understanding of why some of the laws are in place. I think that is worth losing some of my equipment over. If anything, my radio station will always exist in my heart.

I'll never forget you... *sniff*

Pirate Radio Part 1: Strange Hobbies

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Pirate Radio logo
I'm going to start out this post with a warning. Don't be like me! Don't do this project!

The reason why you don't want to do this project is that you can get yourself in some serious legal trouble. I almost did, but I think the project is still important for a number of reasons. This project shows that a professional sounding radio station can be set up and run at a VERY low cost, it shows how quickly projects can get rolling with some community involvement, the importance of being different in advertising and promotion, and hopefully serve as a warning to others to not play around with radio broadcasting equipment without the proper training and permits!
Me and the winner of a 'Pathetically Small Prize'
One of our t-shirts we had made.

Because I don't want you to get yourselves in trouble, I will keep some parts of the technical side of things rather vague. I'm sure that right now there is a radio operator who is about to shake his head and laugh at how dumb I was in creating my radio station.

On to the show. In the summer of 2012 I was at my University taking some classes, and looking for new projects to do. Me and a friend of mine thought that a radio station might be a nifty thing to build. With this in mind, we came up with a few ideas. It would have to be low cost, not need to much labor to keep it running, and play local music.

With these thoughts in mind, we got the stuff together to make a low cost, low power transmitter. Along with this, I started work on the software to automate the radio station.

The solution we came up with was to create an internet radio station which could be automated, not just changing songs, but also putting in station intros. Now we just set up a laptop, started it playing the internet radio stream, and plugged in our transmitter.

I'm going to repeat myself. DO NOT DO THIS.

The station worked wonderfully, and I was able to control the content of the station from any computer I was in front of. We then set up a Facebook page to advertise the station. On there we shared the station info and the internet feed. To promote the station we had what I called 'Pathetically Small Prizes'. Someone would answer a trivia question, and they would win a 'Pathetically Small Prize'. Along with that, we were collecting local music from artists, ripping the tracks, and putting them on the air. The local artists loved the airplay, and the leftover CD's we gave away as 'Pathetically Small Prizes'. For the station intros, we came up with the concept of a character who was a radio DJ who was doing his job as a labor of love, but he was at the desk 24 hours a day, so it was just killing him on the inside. So the voice I used had a bit of a pathetic sigh to everything, and was monotone. People loved the DJ character, most likely because he was so different from all the Top-40 style DJ's.

Almost overnight, we were a hit.

Soon there were requests for t-shirts. I made the design, and sold them slightly above my cost. All told, the radio station broke even, and was becoming hugely popular!

Tomorrow you get to read about why I am begging you not to build a radio station! That post is where the other foot drops!

Blind Assistive Technology (BAT) Sleeve Part 5: The Sleeve

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

For the sleeve itself, I can't really give you an exact design, because the sleeve has to be made to fit the person wearing it, and I'm not a master tailor, so I can't really make a pattern for you. So here are some general thoughts....

The end product looks like this..

Finished Sleeve
What I did was this: I cut a piece of neoprene in a shape that would fit the back of my hand. I then sewed the 'soft' side of a large piece of Velcro onto the entire back of that. I then sewed on the straps. Make sure to do some heavy duty stitching here!

After that was done, I put electrical tape on the bottom of all the electrical components, and then put the 'hard' side of some Velcro on them with an adhesive. Make sure to include the electrical tape, many adhesives are conductive and will give you short circuits if you apply them directly to the electronics. Now mount the electronics to the back of the hand.

Using the stuff mounted on the back of your hand as a guide, cut another piece of neoprene to fit over the electronics. Now sew Velcro to the sides, and use this piece as a cover. You are done!

Now you can just plug in the battery, and the glove will turn on. Operating it is simple, the closer the object, the higher the pitch. When something is in fingertip reaching distance, the glove will emit pulses of sound. When the glove senses a new object, it will have an audible beep. Experiment with it to find the best use!

In my experience, I find that finding objects on a table is best done by sweeping the edge of the table with my fingertips till the glove locks on, then moving my hand forward till it pulses. This allows me to find objects as small as a shotglass without knocking them over.

For navigation, sweeping left and right parallel to the floor works well. It is much like using a cane, only with a narrower angle. It works really well! How well? Works well enough to win an engineering design award!

That is the end of this project! I hope you guys are able to make one of these to help your blind friends of relatives, and I encourage you to 're-mix' this project as much as you like!

Also, make sure to check out Steve Hoefer's brilliant project called Tacit. It works in a similar fashion to this project, but with some significant differences in design. I hope someone out there can use our ideas to make something truly special!